Mathaf: Doha layover suggestion

mathaf

With the rise of Qatar Airways as a long-haul airline, Doha has become an increasingly easy short-term layover destination. The Qatari flag carrier boasts especially good links between Europe and Asia via Doha. Its route map include a whopping 12 cities in India, three in China, and four in Pakistan; notably, the airline also shuttles European tourists to the Indian Ocean holiday playgrounds of the Maldives and Seychelles. In 2012, Qatar Airways will introduce an additional slate of fascinating destinations, including Kiev, Kigali, Perth, and Zanzibar.

Doha’s got plenty of tourism draws, including the renovated Souq Waqif, the Museum of Islamic Art, and its Corniche. Qatar is terribly rich, with the world’s highest or second-highest GDP, depending on the evaluation matrix. As you might expect, Doha’s infrastructure for visitors is undeniably impressive. The city is also in the midst of a major construction boom. The stadiums under construction for the 2022 World Cup alone will keep construction humming through the end of the decade.

Since the tail-end of 2010, Doha has been home to Mathaf, Qatar’s Arab Museum of Modern Art. Mathaf’s current show, Cai Guo-Qiang’s Saraab, features 16 impressive commissioned pieces and scores of past works. Guo-Qiang is a major artist, famous for his large-scale projects involving gunpowder and fireworks. He is particularly well known for orchestrating the extraordinary fireworks displays at the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies.

In Arabic, “saraab” means mirage. The exhibition endeavors to explore connections between Quanzhou, Guo-Qiang’s hometown, and Doha, as well as between China and the Arab world more generally. Trade links between Quanzhou and the Arabian Peninsula are not difficult to trace–the former was once the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road–and Guo-Qiang makes the most of this connection. One particularly appealing piece, titled Endless, consists of three boats, one Chinese and two Qatari, sitting side-by-side in a shallow pool, shrouded in mist.

The museum, located in a former school building, was revamped smartly by the French architect Jean-François Bodin. Other notable features of the museum include a library with a great magazine selection and a cute café.

Mathaf is a good 14 kilometers (about eight miles) from central Doha. The going rate for a taxi from a hotel is 60 riyal ($16.50). Admission to exhibitions costs 25 riyal (just shy of $7) per person. The museum is closed on Monday. Saraab runs through May 26.